Conspicuous As Waves
Rabbi Abba bar Kahana opened his discourse with the verse, “Let out your voice, O daughter of Gallim.” (Isaiah 10:30) Isaiah said to Israel, “Rather than you should utter songs and praises before idols, sing with a joyous voice the words of Torah, sing with a joyous voice in the synagogues.” “O daughter of Gallim,” as the waves are conspicuous in the sea, so are the patriarchs in the world. (introduction to Midrash Eichah I)
How does Rabbi Abba segue from singing joyous songs to the patriarchs who are as conspicuous as the waves of the sea?
I remember how excited I was the first time I heard Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major. I wanted to share it with all my friends. One commented that listening to a Canon was like watching waves. It was the same music repeatedly played but with different intensity. He found it boring! I thought he was nuts. The point was that numerous waves can share a motion but each has a different intensity and shape. Wave watching may be hypnotic, but it is also exciting when we search for their differences.
The patriarchs did not set out to be different, but to add shape and intensity to their lives. Each patriarch found his own expression of life and service of God. We do not say, “The Lord of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,” but, “The Lord of Abraham, the Lord of Isaac, the Lord of Jacob.” Each had his own relationship with God. They may have prayed the same words, practiced the same Mitzvot, and studied the same Torah, but each found his individual shape and focus in everything he did. That was the source of their joy.
It is only the individual wave that can sing with joy.
Rabbi Abba reminds us that the Three Weeks, our time for singing with joy, (See Singing Through The Three Weeks,) is the time we must focus on our individuality. We have to find our own expression of attachment to God even though we pray the same words, observe the same Mitzvot and study the same Torah as so many others.
Otherwise, we become as bored as my friend, and Judaism is never boring.
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